Animals making their way into your chimney is not uncommon, especially in the summer months when you are no longer using it. Your fireplace makes for the perfect new home for these animals, and while most of them can exit on their own, others might not be able to and could eventually die in the trap and release odors you do not want in your home. Learn what to do if any animals made a home in your chimney.
Signs You Have an Animal in Your Chimney
If you have a suspicion that you may have an animal in your chimney, there are a few clues that can point you to your answer. Are you hearing any scratching, clawing, or movement in the chimney? This is a sure sign that you have an animal living in your chimney that is definitely not paying rent.
If you are unsure, look around the flue of your chimney and the outside to see if birds or other animals are making their way inside. Any clawing or scratching you are hearing could potentially damage your chimney, so you want to take care of these issues as quickly as possible.
Issues With the Chimney Caused by Animals
There is a multitude of issues that arise when an animal lives rent-free in your chimney. The foulest problem is the odor that can emanate from the animal’s droppings or if the animal died inside the chimney. On top of the smell, the droppings can also introduce disease and fleas into your home, making your family sick.
Furthermore, the animal needs to make a home within the chimney, meaning there are most likely nesting materials that can obstruct your chimney, prevent smoke from rising up, and even billow back into the home. These animals are also most likely damaging the inside of the flue, preventing you from using the chimney in the future until it can be fixed. Overall, the big issue is that it’s an inconvenience to everyone in the home—you’ll most likely need professional help and repairs or an inspection.
Types of Animals and How To Get Rid of Them
First and foremost, a chimney inspection company cannot remove the animals for you because they don’t have expertise in handling animals. If you cannot remove the animal yourself, you’ll want to call a wildlife control company that can handle animals that prowl in and around your home. An important thing to note is that some animals are protected under federal laws and cannot be removed from your chimney until they vacate on their own.
Ironically, a common bird that loves to nest in chimneys is called the Chimney Swift. These birds are federally protected and typically settle in the eastern North American region during the summer. Unfortunately, you need to wait until the bird decides to leave themselves, which they usually do when the weather changes and they migrate south for the winter.
To remove other birds from your chimney, you can try to frighten the bird into leaving by shining a flashlight inside or making loud noises. If this is not working, try closing your fireplace doors but opening the damper so you can carefully take it back outside when the bird makes its way to the actual fireplace. Never try to smoke out a bird because it will kill the animal, making it harder to remove them, and it can cause a fire hazard with their nesting materials inside.
Chimneys have a similar feel to a cave, which is why bats will make a home in your chimney. If you’re unsure if the animal in the chimney is a bird or bat, look around the top of your chimney on the roof to see if bats enter at dusk or dawn, when they are typically most active. Before you begin the process of trying to remove them, ensure your damper is shut so they cannot fly into your actual home.
Identify where the bats are coming and going in the chimney and install a one-way door that allows the animals to fly out but not back in. You must not remove the bats with poison; killing them is never allowed because of the significant role they play in our ecosystem. Because of these strict rules, you may opt to hire professional help to remove the bats.
Raccoons have been found to like chimneys because the females like to nest there before giving birth. You may notice a raccoon leaving in the morning; this is most likely the mother getting food for her babies. The good thing about raccoons is that no matter if you have a metal flue or a slippery chimney, raccoons can climb back up the walls and leave themselves.
Just like with birds, try making really loud sounds to get them to crawl back out. If this is not helpful, consider using a product like “raccoon eviction fluid.” It is a natural byproduct of the male raccoon (a natural predator to females,) and spraying this inside the fireplace will que the female raccoon that she senses danger and needs to move her family.
Mice also love to seek shelter in chimneys because of the predators outside. You’ll hear the mice most at night, or you’ll see footprints on the fireplace floor—both are indicators that you have guests staying in your chimney. What you need to do with this type of animal to remove them from the structure is a two-step process.
Repair any cracks in the masonry, exhaust, vents, and roof so the mice cannot find another way back inside. Patch the holes with a steel mesh because this is a material that mice cannot chew through. Next, open your damper and set down traps inside and around the fireplace—try not to use traps that will kill the mice because, again, they are harder to remove, and the odor will become unbearable.
Just as the raccoon wants a safe place to nest her babies, so do squirrels. If you see acorns or nuts along the floor where the damper is, this strongly indicates that you have a squirrel problem. While these animals are excellent climbers, they cannot escape slippery places like the raccoon.
You can coax the squirrel out of your chimney by dangling a long rope that reaches the bottom of the fireplace and is secured on the roof. This gives the squirrel an extra vantage point to exit the flue. Babies cannot climb the rope, so you’ll have to use a good pair of gloves to remove them and bring them outside to the mother gently.
What To Do After the Animal Is Gone
After the animal is gone, you’re not ready to start lighting fires again just yet. Remove any materials you used to rid the animal of your chimney, and call your local chimney sweep services for an inspection. Chances are you’ll need a Chimney Sweep in Portland, OR, before you can begin using the fireplace again.
There could be damages, holes, cracks, and other fire-hazardous material from the animals that need to be removed or fixed before you can begin your regular routine. To ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again, install a chimney cap designed to keep animals at bay.
If you are unsure how to rid the animal from your fireplace, seek professional help from a wildlife service, and call Chimcare to take a look at the chimney once the animal is vacated. It is best to let the professionals handle the situation if you don’t think you will be able to do it yourself.